Posted by: mmreflections | January 28, 2013

YEAR OF FAITH January 2013

INTRODUCTION

In response to the many requests from former readers over the past few months, I feel encouraged to offer some reflections during this Year of Faith which may be helpful to those seriously striving for a renewed understanding of Christian life and our relationship to Jesus Christ. In reflecting on my own spiritual journey and my own efforts to walk according to the Way, the Truth and the Life made manifest to us in the teachings of Jesus, I am in awe of where the journey has taken me: the many ups and downs, the shipwrecks, the joys, the sorrows, the heart breaks, the relationships that have come and gone, the summers, the winters and above all, the times I have been called to a change in my way of thinking. I am able to look back upon my life’s journey of 79 years with joy and wonder, marveling at how the Holy One has been present in my life through it all. The One in whom I have believed and to whom I have committed my life has not disappointed me. In sharing some of these lessons life has taught me, my hope and prayer is that readers of these reflections will be more willing to undergo the changes with which life is challenging them. May our journeys during this Year of Faith be fruitful and blessed. May we all be empowered to use this time as a way of helping to make our world, our nation, our society, our families, our relationships and our environment more in keeping with what the Creator intended for all people.

CHANGE OF HEART!

“The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light,  on those dwelling in a land overshadowed by death, light has arisen.”  From that time on, Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  (Matthew 4:15-17)

Not very many people get excited when they are challenged to make changes to the way they live or do things.  Even more recoil or turn away when they hear the word repent.  Why do we resist or become troubled by a call for us to do something that may be helpful and beneficial for our lives?  Are we afraid of making a mistake or of taking a risk?  My own resistance is quite apparent when I visit my doctor for my annual checkup.  I am not too excited when he suggests some needed changes to improve my physical health.  I can choose to respond positively and enjoy better health and well-being or I can choose to go on following the same old patterns and end up with more complications.

Among the unquestionable aspects of life are the inevitable changes that take place with or without our consent.  From the moment of our birth physical changes are taking place.  We do not question that fact and there is nothing we can do about it.  As we mature and are called to make choices regarding life’s decisions about relationships, vocations, marriage, employment and family we seem to do so easily (in most cases) despite the changes that will be demanded of us.  When it comes to our spiritual lives, however, many of us throw up barriers to any possible changes.

As we enter upon his new year and hear an invitation to some observance of this Year of Faith, we are reminded of Jesus’ call to repentance which is basically a call to have a change of heart, a call to look at life differently.  We are being called to examine our life and our personal way of embracing and following the teachings Jesus has indicated would empower us and bring us joy and peace.  What is working for us and what has been detrimental to ourselves and our spiritual life?  A starting point might be to look at our lives and consider what emotions are most prevalent on a daily basis.  Do worry, anxiety, fear and uncertainty create a cloud over our heads and fill our thoughts day after day?  Do boredom and frustrations surround us like unwelcome companions who don’t seem to want to go away?  Does anger present itself again and again in our relationships, in our words, at work or at home when things are not in our control?  Does resentment and an unwillingness to forgive those who may have harmed us steal our joy and peace?  If so, it appears to be a clarion call for making changes in the way we are thinking.  This Year of Faith may just be the gift we are being offered to provide us with the guidance we need so badly.

A good place to start may be by considering how we pray or if we even do pray.  So many of us pray so little or so poorly it is hardly possible to live without fear and sadness.  Most of us have time for parties, movies, games, concerts, dinners, vacations and many other activities.  These are really good in themselves especially when they bring us together with good wholesome company.  What do we do, however, when God calls?  Many of us put God “on hold” until some crisis arises.  “I’ll get back to YOU when I have time,” many say.  Or perhaps, “I’ll call when I need YOU!”  BIG MISTAKE!  Why are we afraid to personally spend some quiet time with the One in whom we profess faith?  Do we truly believe that the Creator of the Universe, the One who created us out of nothing, takes great joy in our company, stands ready to have us make our issues known, and to seek for guidance?

I am not sure when it happened or exactly how it happened, but the greatest change on my spiritual journey came about when  I became aware of how great the love of God is for me.  When I was a high school student getting ready for college I was filled with a great deal of disappointment  about myself because of my failures, shortcomings and character flaws.  My lack of civility and understanding toward others caused me much pain and sadness.  There was too much self-preoccupation and self-condemnation. My tendency to see the faults in others while ignoring the same faults in myself was quite apparent.  As a slipped into feelings of despair, I had a dream I have never forgotten.  In my dream I found myself drowning in a sea of murky black water and as I was sinking into the water, I cried out, “Lord, help me!”  In that moment I saw the figure of a man who appeared to me like Jesus reaching out his hands to save me.  That dream  has remained with me for the rest of my life and each time I find myself feeling troubled about anything I recall that moment.  It was after that moment that I learned to pray.  I knew I could call out to the Holy One who saved me at that time and by whom I was loved unconditionally.

If we took a moment sitting quietly in the silent, peaceful presence of the One who created all things and is always present to us, sustaining us and loving us, what might this All Powerful Loving God, made visible in the person of Jesus Christ, say to us?  Will we see annoyance in his eyes and hear him asking us when we are going to get our act together?  Or would he thank us for coming aside to acknowledge his presence in our lives?  Might he tell us what joy it is to be dwelling in our hearts?  Perhaps he will reassure us of his unconditional, unchanging love for us despite our many failures and sins.

Many with good intentions have based their prayer lives on the prayers of others or on liturgical prayers alone.  These are good in themselves but are often a reflection of others needs and state of life.  We also need to open our own hearts and pour out our own needs to the Lord in a very personal relationship unlike that of anyone else.  There is nothing we need to fear bringing our own personal concerns and failures out in the open instead of keeping them locked up inside of ourselves, perhaps thinking no one is concerned about these issues.  We need to learn that we can talk about our fears as well as our joys.  We can relate all our doubts and worries, our boredom and frustrations, our need to forgive and let go of resentments.  In this way we begin to experience the deep awareness of God’s love for us.  This change is a sure way of filling our lives with love, joy , peace, goodness, compassion, serenity and understanding.  If we sincerely desire these gifts in our lives  and make our needs and desires known in prayer, the gifts and blessings we need will come!  They will bring about a new way of looking at life.  It is the love of God which will bring this about!  We will be amazed for we will see accomplished in our lives what we could not accomplish ourselves.

“I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe!  I have plans to give you a future full of hope.  When you call me, when you go to pray to me, I will listen to you.  When you look for me, you will find me.  Yes, when you seek me with all your heart, you will find me with you, says the Lord, and I will change your lot…..”  (Jeremiah 29:11-14)

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Responses

  1. Fr. Mike
    As always you give me many things to think about and goals to attain. This was a beautiful topic to reflect upon


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